How Does Facebook Influence India’s Democracy?

Hosted by Chirag Chinnappa 
Edited by Vikrant Anand

“In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions…I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count…I know that I have blood on my hands by now”

That’s Sophie Zhang, a former Data Scientist at Facebook who became a whistleblower, in her farewell letter to the company’s employees on her last day. The 6,600 word memo detailed the company’s failures to stop political manipulation around the world, including India. She pointed out that incidents of manipulated spread of a post were increasing, and were especially taking place during elections with the aim of swinging votes towards or against a particular party.

In later conversations with other media outlets, she also specifically spoke about Facebook’s bias towards the ruling parties in India, at the state and national and national level. Most recently, Zhang sought to appear before the Standing Committee on IT, to reveal Facebook’s modus operandi in India, but was denied to do so by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

We sat down with Sophie Zhang to explore a few key questions; how exactly was Facebook influencing Indian elections? What are the systems the company has in place to fight manipulated spread, and are they effective? And what can be the best way forward? Let’s find out.


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